Thursday, February 8, 2024
HomeCiderThe Erasure of Enslaved Black Cidermakers

The Erasure of Enslaved Black Cidermakers

This essay initially appeared in Problem 13 (2021) of the zine Malus.

Isaac Granger Jefferson ca. 1845, blacksmith at Monticello and son of George and Ursula Granger. There aren’t any photos of his enslaved mother and father, who had been each concerned with cidermaking there.

Historic analysis generally is a irritating enterprise. Documentary information are typically maddeningly incomplete. What could be key paperwork are sometimes absent — tossed out by a well-meaning clerk, destroyed by water or rodents, or just left to molder away in some forgotten nook. Unremarkable farm work, like cidermaking, was usually left uncommented upon anyway, and was sometimes accomplished by strange folks — working folks, farmers and employed fingers, expert maybe, however usually illiterate, and positively not a part of the commemorated class of Nice Males who get scholarly biographies. Paperwork containing details about the lives and work of enslaved Africans and their descendants are even sparser.

That is the problem of writing about Black cidermaking in America. However one can hardly hope to grasp the historical past of American cider with out contemplating African participation in it. Up to now, the cider group as a complete has accomplished a fairly poor job of ferreting out this historical past, particularly on the subject of narratives involving the enslaved. There was a fixation on Jupiter Evans, an enslaved man at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation, Monticello, whereas different Black folks concerned in early American cidermaking have been largely ignored. There may be a lot to be discovered for these with the braveness to dig past the half-dozen web sites that pop up with a easy web search. This essay simply scratches the floor.

Patriots, Puritans, and White Gold

We begin right here with New England. We don’t suppose a lot concerning the existence of slavery in New England, however the farms and plantations there have been main suppliers of important items to the West Indies, the place sources had been extra profitably spent on producing sugar, also known as white gold. With continuous labor shortages, landowners made used of enslaved Africans, although in fewer numbers than within the Southern colonies because the labor required to provide subsistence items was lower than that for tobacco or cotton. New England producers offered the sugar colonies with meat, lumber, and wheat in addition to apples and cider. 

As with a lot of early American historical past, definitive documentary proof displaying that slave labor was used to provide cider in New England is scant, however a lot could be inferred from the obtainable information. By fastidiously analyzing probate information in jap Rhode Island between 1638 and 1800, for instance, one historian concluded that planters that owned slaves had been more likely to provide cider on the market than their non-slave proudly owning neighbors (Garmen, 1998) and that cidermaking took extra talent than, say, discipline work. Two explicit examples of this observe could be discovered within the information of Sylvester Manor in New York and Ten Hills Farm in Massachusetts.

Sylvester Manor was constructed by Nathaniel Sylvester (1610-1680) on Shelter Island on the jap finish of Lengthy Island, land bought from the Manhasset, lots of whom remained dwelling there. His intention was to provision the Barbados sugar plantation he owned in partnership together with his brother and two others, and the stock made at his demise exhibits that he owned a cider mill, in addition to numerous Africans, together with Tammero, Oyou, Black John, J:O, Maria, Jenkin, Tony, Nannie, Japhet, Semenie, Jaquero, and Hannah, plus their youngsters. Nathaniel Sylvester left neither accounts nor a diary, so we can not know for sure who of those might need made cider. Contemplating the quantity and scope of labor on the plantation, and simply how few folks there have been to do it, it might not be unreasonable to think about that nearly everybody contributed at one time or one other. The account books left by Nathaniel’s eldest son and inheritor, Giles (1657-1708), help this notion, for they present that exterior assist was wanted on the plantation throughout the fall, the busiest time of the yr. He employed numerous native Manhasset males to enhance the work accomplished by his enslaved laborers, together with one named Henry who was paid for 55 days of cidermaking one yr. Cider was used to pay for labor, in commerce for corn, and was additionally bought regionally to neighbors, close by Native Individuals, and, in a single entry, to Black John. 

18th Century cider mill alongside the Schuylkill River, PA

Provisioning sugar plantations was additionally the enterprise of Ten Hills Farm, owned by Isaac Royall, Sr. (1677-1739) from 1732. A New England native, he made his preliminary fortune in buying and selling slaves, sugar, and rum from his Antigua plantation. After a slave revolt there in 1737 (Royall’s enslaved driver Hector was executed for his function within the rebellion), Royall and his household returned to Massachusetts the place he had been constructing a classy home with outbuildings and orchards on 500 acres abutting the Mystic River in Middlesex County close to Boston. Paperwork present that he introduced slaves with him (he petitioned the overall court docket to keep away from paying import taxes on them as a result of they had been “for his personal use, and to not promote them”), and these he divided amongst his heirs upon his demise in 1739, together with his solely son, Isaac Royall, Jr. (1719-1781) who carried on the household enterprise. 

Royall, Jr. additionally doesn’t seem to have left a diary, however his cidermaking exercise could be seen in his tax information. Together with wool, grain, and livestock, tax information from 1771 present the manufacturing of 26 barrels of cider and 5 “servants for all times,” as they had been so delicately referred to, although with no names. They might have been Betsey, George, Hagar, Myra, Nancy, or Stephen, who had been all nonetheless at Ten Hills Farm in 1776 when Royall directed they be bought (he fled to England at the beginning of the Revolutionary Battle and wanted the cash). There have been at the very least 254 enslaved individuals in Middlesex County that yr and 34,164 barrels of cider made, greater than another county in Massachusetts. Can we be completely sure that the Royall’s cider was made by enslaved folks? Not with the present information, although given the Royalls’ historical past in Antigua it’s exhausting to think about in any other case. Isaac Royall, Jr.’s bequest to Harvard Faculty, by the way, was a key issue within the founding of its legislation faculty.

Enterprise as Common

We all know just a little extra about cidermaking at Ferry Hill, a 700 acre plantation owned by John Blackford (1771-1839) on the Potomac River exterior Sharpsburg, MD. It was a combined agricultural operation whose essential business crop was wheat, although Blackford additionally bought wooden in numerous types and numerous apple merchandise, together with cider. He used a mix of slave labor and employed whites and free Blacks, proudly owning roughly 25 folks at his demise in accordance with probate information. He appears to have been intimately concerned in working his farm, and saved a very good diary (the one for 1838-1839 is on the market digitally). He additionally appears to have had bother together with his cider mill, for he employed somebody to work on it a number of occasions all through the autumn of 1838. 

Blackford recorded the times his slaves gathered apples (Daphne, Caroline, and Isaiah) and labored with a employed hand to grind and press them. Others (Will, Enoch, and Julius) additionally pressed cider from pomace to make water cider (ciderkin) and vinegar. His son Franklin and a tenant pressed cider, too. Everybody appears to have been working alongside everybody else, which sounds virtually egalitarian, and plainly he gave lots of his enslaved employees loads of autonomy. The adverts he positioned looking for the seize of a number of that ran away, and his readiness to return the fleeing slaves of others he discovered hiding close to the Potomac, clarify that his “folks” weren’t folks, although. They had been property.

Early American Patriarchs

The 2 males that we in all probability suppose we all know probably the most about on the subject of early American cidermaking involving enslaved individuals are George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They each fall into the class of Nice Males, subsequently a lot effort has been put into preserving, analyzing, and digitizing their written legacies. Even so, we’re nonetheless confronted with the ordinariness of cidermaking, and the smallness of the folks doing the precise work.

Washington’s 8,000 or so acre plantation at Mt. Vernon on the Potomac River in jap Virginia consisted of numerous completely different contiguous farms: River Farm, Dogue Run, Muddy Gap, Union Farm, and Mansion Home. Every farm had its personal set of buildings and function — one had a mill, one other a distillery — and its personal separate set of employees, most of whom the place enslaved. There additionally had been employed laborers and an overseer, who reported to a single farm supervisor that was accountable for the entire plantation. We all know most of the names of the enslaved, because of the annual tithe (tax) stories required by the Virginia colony in addition to two inventories written by Washington in 1786 and 1799, when there have been 251 enslaved individuals at Mt. Vernon, although we all know little greater than that. Quite a lot of Washington’s “folks” had been skilled in expert trades like carpentry, cooperage, or smithing, and some labored as overseers. This is a vital level, for a number of written contracts between Washington and his numerous white overseers clearly present that it was the overseer that had duty for annual cidermaking, and that this was in all probability the norm. “By the Bearer you’ll obtain a Gross of (Hues) Crabb Cyder, wch[sic] you’ll a lot oblige me by accepting,” wrote Washington’s nephew William Augustine Washington in 1785, “‘Tho not so good as I may want, from the administration of my Cyder final fall being left intirely[sic] to the Negroes, from the Lack of each my Overseers.” 

Who had been Washington’s Black overseers then? Will oversaw a number of farms together with Muddy Gap (1785) and Dogue Run (1792). Israel Morris oversaw Dogue Run from 1766 till 1794. He was passed by the making of the 1799 stock, and had in all probability died. Davy Grey ran Muddy Gap from 1770 till 1785, then River Farm for a couple of years, transferring again to Muddy Gap in 1792 and remaining there till Washington’s demise in 1799. Cider was made at many, presumably all, of the farms. “My Ox Cart completed drawing within the Wheat at Doeg Run–however throughout this time it was employed in getting dwelling the Cyder from all of the Plantations,” Washington wrote in his diary in September 1768. ”Within the Neck [River Farm]…The opposite fingers besides these on the Plow and employed in getting in and Stacking the Wheat—had been threshing out Oats, & urgent Cyder,” reads an entry in August 1788.

Davy Grey was born in 1743 (deducible from the 1799 stock), and was married to Molly (born 1723). It’s potential that he skilled as a gardener; that was Washington’s said intent in a 1762 letter, at the very least. Grey, Molly, Will, and Morris had been among the many 80 dower slaves that got here to Washington upon his marriage to the widow Martha Custis. As such they, and their youngsters, couldn’t be freed or bought; these nonetheless dwelling had been inherited by the heirs of her first husband upon Martha Washington’s demise in 1802. Davy Grey’s look within the probate stock is the one motive we all know his final identify because it seems nowhere else in Washington’s information.


Jefferson’s information are presumably extra full than Washington’s, for he not solely saved accounts but additionally a farm e-book and a backyard e-book the place he recorded a lot of what went on at his Monticello plantation, at the very least sporadically. Each planting/grafting timber and cidermaking present up in his correspondence as effectively. It’s lucky that Jefferson has held such a fascination for thus many for nearly every part that is still of his writings has been digitized and is freely obtainable to the general public.

Which brings us to George Granger, or Nice George as Jefferson referred to as him. Jefferson purchased George Granger (1730-1799) from Wade Netherland in, in all probability, 1773 close to the time when he purchased Granger’s spouse Ursula (1738-1800) and their youngsters from the property of John Fleming. Martha Jefferson apparently admired Ursula Granger’s cooking. A while earlier than 1787, George Granger turned accountable for Jefferson’s orchards. “. . . George nonetheless to be reserved to maintain my orchards,” he wrote to his overseer that July, and by 1790 was the overseer of Monticello, the one Black overseer to work there. He’s mentioned to have been literate, one thing that was not the case for all of Jefferson’s white overseers. He very clearly additionally made cider. Jefferson’s entry for 1 November 1799 reads “70 bushels of the Robinson & crimson Hughes . . . have made 120 gallons of cyder. George says that when in a correct state (there was a lot rot amongst these) they must make 3 galls. to the bushel, as he is aware of from having usually measured each (emphasis added).” To have that type of information, Granger is prone to have been making cider for a while. 

The entry in Jefferson’s Farm E-book documenting George Granger urgent apples for cider; Granger died the subsequent day.

Ursula Granger additionally had a hand within the cidermaking course of. “I have to get Martha [Jefferson’s daughter] or your self to offer orders for bottling the cyder within the correct season in March,” Jefferson wrote to his son-in-law on 4 February 1800. “There may be no person there however Ursula who unites belief & talent to do it. She could take any physique she pleases to assist her.” Ursula was a pastry cook dinner, from what little we all know of her, although she additionally supervised the salting of meat to protect it, washed and ironed the Jeffersons’ garments, and generally acted as moist nurse to the Jefferson youngsters. Each she and her husband, in addition to their son George, Jr., died inside six months of one another in 1799-1800.

Jefferson’s information don’t have a lot to say about cidermaking after 1800, excluding an instruction to Edmund Bacon (1785-1866), overseer at Monticello from 1806 to 1822. “We have now saved crimson Hughes sufficient from the North orchard to make a wise cask of cyder,” Jefferson wrote to Bacon in November 1817. “[T]hey at the moment are mellow & starting to rot. I’ll pray you subsequently to have them made into cyder instantly. allow them to be made clear one after the other, and all of the rotten ones thrown away or the rot reduce out. nothing else can guarantee high quality cyder,” once more suggesting that managing cidermaking was a part of an overseer’s job.

It’s from Bacon that we get yet another trace concerning the function the enslaved at Monticello performed in making cider there. Late in life he sat down with one Hamilton Pierson and reminisced about working for Jefferson. In Pierson’s e-book recounting their conversations, Bacon speaks of a few of the home servants: Betty Brown, Sally, Critta, and Betty Hemings, Nance, and Ursula (not Granger, who had died a few years earlier than). “These girls remained at Monticello whereas he was President,” he mentioned. “I used to be instructed to take no management of them. They’d little or no to do. After I opened the home, they attended to airing it. Then each March we needed to bottle all his cider. Expensive me, this was a job. It took us two weeks. Mr. Jefferson was very explicit about his cider.”

Jupiter Evans: the Documentary File

What then of Jupiter Evans? To be frank, there may be little within the main paperwork — the farm and backyard books, memorandum e-book, or correspondence — that connects Evans to cidermaking. On 11 February 1800, Jefferson wrote a letter to his daughter. “The demise of Jupiter obliges me to ask of Mr. Randolph or your self to offer orders on the correct time in March for the bottling [of] my cyder,” it mentioned. He had additionally talked about Evans in his letter of the earlier week, “I’m sorry for him [Evans] in addition to smart he leaves a void in my home administration which I can not refill—,” it says, adopted by the sentence about Ursula and bottling cider (the mark between the 2 sentences seems within the authentic). Letters right now weren’t sometimes divided into distinct paragraphs, showing as one steady move even when topics modified and the writer moved on to the subsequent merchandise. Figuring out that, and in gentle of the plain mark dividing the 2 sentences, are they unambiguously a part of the identical thought? Within the absence of another documentary proof, can these two statements alone be learn to imply that Evans was Jefferson’s cidermaker?

Jefferson had identified Evans his entire life. They grew up collectively, born on the identical plantation in the identical yr. Evans spent 10 years as Jefferson’s private attendant, changed by the younger Robert Hemings, then was put answerable for the stables, seeing to the wagons and carriages and Jefferson’s treasured blooded horses. He was skilled as a stonemason, engaged on a variety of initiatives at each Monticello and employed out to others, particularly when Jefferson was away for an prolonged interval. They traveled collectively usually, and information present that Evans was generally despatched out alone with necessary paperwork or massive sums of cash. Jefferson clearly trusted him, and Evans in all probability had, from lengthy expertise, a very good sense of how his grasp favored the family run. The truth that Jefferson despatched directions that both Martha or her husband, who weren’t cidermakers, had been to step into Evans’ place and order the bottling means that Jefferson merely trusted him to see that this a part of his home affairs ran easily. Maybe as overseer, it might have been George Granger directing the bottling if he had not died the earlier November.

Most of what we find out about Evans and the Grangers comes from work accomplished by Lucia Stanton, Senior Historian on the Thomas Jefferson Basis, now retired. Within the early Nineteen Nineties she started conducting detailed analysis into the lives of the enslaved inhabitants at Monticello, work that reworked how the enslaved had been offered each on web site on the plantation, throughout excursions there, and on the historic web site’s web site. It’s fascinating to notice that Stanton’s revealed work contains features of cidermaking when she writes concerning the Grangers, however not when writing about Jupiter Evans.

In fact, although, whether or not or not Jupiter Evans was concerned with cider at Monticello is just not actually the purpose. What’s the level is that others clearly had been, and that whereas the cider group lauds Jupiter Evans, the Grangers stay invisible. Tens of hundreds of enslaved folks lived, labored, and died in service of their house owners, some making cider that will enrich these house owners both within the market or on their tables. To keep away from spending effort and time to study extra of their lives, even whether it is simply their names, does a grave disservice to their reminiscence, and perpetuates the dismissal of Black and indigenous folks’s half in America’s cider historical past. Black John, Henry, Daphne, Israel Morris, Davy Grey, George and Ursula Granger all deserve higher. 

Sources and Steered Studying:

Thanks to Offended Orchard Exhausting Cider for sponsoring the re-print of this put up on Cider Tradition. 

  • Pictures and pictures: Courtesy of Darlene Hayes


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